9th Jul 2013
For a few weeks either side of the equinox the sun sets behind Clevedon Pier and gives this beautiful location an added appeal for the keen photographer. For the last few years the weather hasn't been kind and so I put off the trip until conditions were more favourable, this year warm sun and cloudless blue skies saw me make the drive down to Somerset with a realistic opportunity of returning home with some nice images. There were a few problems along the way - I hadn't realised what a popular location this would be and parking was the first issue to deal with but eventually I found a spot only about 1/2 mile from the pier. The there were the hundred or so sun worshipers, swimmers and tourists that had gathered on the beach restricting my possible photographic locations but I was going to make the most of my evenings photography.
I knew that with the bright sun beating down and shining right into my face that I was going to have to wait until the sun was behind the pavaillion, at the end of the pier before I had any realistic opportunity of making any decent images. The sun was bright and shining right into my face lens flare would have ruined any chance of getting myself a decent image. So I waited, along with the holiday makers and several other eagre photographers.
Eventually the sun fell behind the pavillion and the game was on, to try and make as many decent images as I could.
My first image (left) was taken at 21:06 hrs and was taken at f22 and 1/50 sec.
I knew that with the sun being obscured by the pavillion I wouldn't have to contend with lens flare, which is caused by light from the sun bouncing around inside the lens and usually occurs when you are shooting directly into the sun. I chose f22 - not for the depth of field but to give me the best chance of getting a star burst effect from the sun should it shine through the glass windows of the pavillion with any kind of suitable intensity. As you can see from the finished image that didn't occur but I was prepared.
I had a polarising filter on my lens which helped saturate the colours of the sunset, it does look very saturated but it is all 'in camera' and not added during my processing of the image. In fact I actually reduced the vibrancy and saturation a touch to bring the colours with gamut.
Now the overall image is pleasing - some people like smooth water other prefer to see movement and ripples and as someone who sells images for a living I like to shoot both styles to 'hopefully' make my images appeal to as many people as possible. I also shoot a good number of images in 'portrait' format as these sell well for front covers of magazines.
As the sun fell a little lower in the sky and more behind the boarding of the pavillion I noticed that my exposure time was increasing quite quickly.
The time between this image (left) and the next image (below - right) was only about 2 minutes yet my exposute time increased by 1-2 stops. I also noticed that the sky above the pier was a lovely blue colour which contrasted very nicely with the warm yellows and oranges of the setting sun, this was something I wanted to capture in an image. So I adjusted my composition so less sea and more sky filled the frame, I also attached my Lee Filters Big Stopper - a 10 stop neutral density filter.
Using the Big Stopper would increase my exposure time to around 70 seconds and this would smooth out the sea for those people that like smooth water.
I think it worked very nicely indeed, this image was taken at 21:10 hrs and again at f22 but this time a shutter speed of 71 seconds was used.
Check out the images in my Gallery to see larger versions so you can fully appreciate the detail in the images.
So that was 2 images in the bag, the sun was now starting to set beyond the distant hills and it wouldn't be long before we were into twighlight photography and period of time known as 'crossover' lighting. This is where the ambient light (light from the sky) is the same intensity as the artificial lighting (in this case the lamps on the pier). So I picked up my gear and moved to a new location.
I got on the concrete walkway by the sea wall, this got me a little higher which enabled me to see more of the lamps and I also found a position where none of the lamps were actually obscuring each other. In other words I had seperation between all the lamps and lamp posts.
Crossover lighting arrived at around 21:52 hrs about half an hour after the last image, I was already in position, settings dialled in to my camera and all I had to do was press the shutter - easy!
This time just the polarising filter was attached to my lens and a 5 second exposure produced this image - its a close run thing but I think this is possibly my favourite image from my evenings work.
The pastal tones of the pallete gives the whole image a feeling of tranquility, while the peach coloured sky gives the impression of warmth. The black outline of the pier really contrasts nicely with the soft, subtle light in the sky and the illuminated lamps on the pier.
However I wasn't done yet - we are now firmly into the realms of 'night photography', all but 1 of the other photographs had long since packed up and gone home, so we stayed and tried for one last image. It was now 22:38 hrs, not that I realised that at the time, I was far too busy looking for a new composition and working out my exposure times.
I decided to move up on to the footpath of The Beach, use a slightly wider angle lens to enable me to show the pier in context with the land. The slightly higher vantage point helped me to show more of the illuminated pier lamps but I was still very careful in choosing my precise location so as to have separation between all the lights. All the filters came off my lens, a shutter speed of around 160 seconds was settled upon and an aperture of f20 gave me just the right exposure and image sharpness I was after.
Not too disimilar an image from the previous one just a subtle change in the positioning of the pier, the inclusion of the rocks and the reflections in the water. It also seems a little harder, maybe grittier than the last one too.
And so my evening at Clevedon drew to a close with a well earned glass of lager to quench my thirst - oh and due to the M5 being closed I didn't arrive home until 01:00 - ahhhh the joys!